“The Daniel Fast” — eating only fruits, vegetables and whole grains for 21 days — is becoming popular among Protestants, The Atlantic reports.
Catholics are used to giving up favorite foods — fasting and going without meat on some days during Lent. As part of the tradition, Christians may give up luxuries such as chocolate, cigarettes or booze.
The practice goes back millennia. A 5th century historian of the early Catholic church noted that during Lent ”some abstain from every sort of creature that has life.” (That would include anything with flesh, or produced from flesh: milk, cheese, eggs.)
Such abstemious behavior may be traced to Daniel, who eschews the meat and drink of the Babylonian king and declares that he and his companions will stick to veggies, thank you very much. His diet became a symbol of his resistance to a foreign king.
Now Daniel’s fast is catching on. Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church is among the bigger voices promoting the diet with a spiritual component. And, Christians say, it’s not only working, it’s changing their lives and health for the better.
Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at UPMC, tells The Atlantic that dieting is easier when the dieter’s reason is meaningful.
“Everybody needs their dangling carrot,” she says. “We don’t always do ‘I just want to eat better.’ There has to be some other motivation. If that motivation is a higher power, fine.”